The Doobie Brothers – Livin’ On The Fault Line


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

WHITE HOT STAMPERS for this overlooked and underrated Doobies album from 1977! Not a lot of hits but a lot of good Sophisticated Soulful Pop songs — the first four tracks on side one are some of the best of the Michael McDonald era, with Nothin’ But a Heartache and There’s a Light on side two making six SUPERB tracks all told.

I’m not even sure you could make the case that Minute By Minute has six tracks of this quality, and I would still find these six superior even if you tried. The consistency may not be as high as MBM, but the high points reach higher, and go deeper emotionally. (Yes, I’m being completely serious.)

More Doobie Brothers

And with Hot Stamper sound now you can actually enjoy the album as an audiophile quality recording. Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? Not us! We’ve been buying copies with different stampers for years with virtually nothing to show for it. That’s why you haven’t seen a Hot Stamper hit the site, ever.

That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, murky, dark sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobies Brothers albums may be the rule, but this pressing is the exception. The average copy of this record is such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that too many audiophiles would have taken it seriously over the years. They should — the band cooks on practically every track, with strong songwriting that holds up to this day.

Why go to all the trouble to find great sounding copies? Because this is a good album! Side one is strong from start to finish, and side two has its own share of top quality material and musicianship. If you don’t know the album this is your chance to rectify that oversight.


The Doobie Brothers album “Livin’ on the Fault Line” has been my favorite album from one of my favorite bands of all time. It is full of great songs, phenomenal musicianship, and Michael McDonald at his best. As a retiree who has very modest means today I have “shot out” more than a dozen copies of this lp and have a very good copy and backup. So last week Tom put up a double sided Triple Plus White Hot Stamper of “Livin’ on the Fault Line”. Could it be THAT much better than my best copy considering that my copy was the best of over a dozen and when played really sounds great? AND the Better Records copy would be almost 100 times the cost of my used record store “finds”.

But I couldn’t resist so I pushed the button and the Better Records White Hot copy arrived yesterday. I couldn’t wait to play it. It was in minty condition. I heated up the rig and sat down and laid my Jan Allearts “needle” (economy model $3000 cartridge with its Fritz Geiger stylus, ruby cantilever and hand wound gold coils that extract just about everything a record groove contains) on the band of the song “Little Darlin”. Suddenly Michael McDonald was in the room in front of me. The sound was simply amazing! TOTALLY transparent. Dynamics were fantastic…..harmonics were great without losing the high end or low end to the midrange. I was listening to the master tapes!

Now this record was not one of the Doobies biggies. It’s a sleeper… a lot were made but you can find them easily and the used prices in bins are dirt cheap. Your average copy sounds pretty good and a good one sounds great BUT this White Hot Stamper just put ALL of them to shame! This makes it a RARE find and Tom has alluded to how he hasn’t found many that sound this good. And that brings me to the thing that is most disturbing about collecting vinyl (forget cd’s)…..WHY could the record companies do such a really poor job shipping a majority of poor to good records when they also shipped a minority of fantastic Hot Stamper LP’s. I could say it’s the 80/20 rule where 20% of anything is great and 80% of everything is much less to awful. Like you want your car mechanic or your brain surgeon to be in the 20%! Then with vinyl you have to find the small percentage of the 20% that survived stems, twigs, coke, and horrible record players that destroyed most of all the records ever produced including the 20%.

But hey… there’s Tom Port and Better Records to do the hard work of finding a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage. Are they expensive? Sure. But from all my attempts, I personally know just how much money and work it takes to produce these “finds”. It’s a LOT. Can I afford many? NO! But I have my small collection of Better Records Hot Stampers and it is separate from my main “excellent” collection of vinyl. It’s separate because I can hardly ever top a top Stamper from Better Records…..especially a Triple Plus from that rarified air of BR!


Waltz for Debby Vs. Sunday at the Village Vanguard


See all of our Bill Evans albums in stock

The best sounding Bill Evans record we have ever played? Probably. it’s safe to say that at the very least it’s as good as any we’ve critically evaluated on our current system.

Waltz for Debby Vs. Sunday at the Village Vanguard

I was never all that impressed with the OJC of this album back in the ’90s when I used to sell it as an in-print record. I loved the OJC of Waltz for Debby, an album that completely smoked the awful Analogue Productions pressing mastered by Doug Sax from 1992. But Sunday? Good, not great.

Of course now my first thought is that I probably had a top quality “stamping” of Waltz for Debby and a somewhat lesser copy of Sunday, but I didn’t know much about stamper variations back then and it would not have occurred to me to buy five or ten copies of both albums and compare them.

In the ensuing years I lost track of the OJC pressing of Sunday at the Village Vanguard — hadn’t played it in more than a decade as a matter of fact, so when one came my way I was shocked to hear how good it sounded. Records sound a lot better than they used to I guess, and that’s the way it should be, Revolutions in Audio and all that.

Of course it quickly turned out that not every copy sounded like the hot one I had played, and bad stampers and bad record stamping ended up being the norm and not the exception.

George Horn and The Original Jazz Classic Series

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music.

That was the ’80s. In the ’90s a fellow from Kansas hired a mastering engineer of great renown from the Los Angeles area to improve upon the work that George Horn had done. To my never-ending consternation, most audiophile reviewers, including a rather famous one we’ve mentioned on this site a time or two, thought Sax and the Kansan had succeeded in doing just that. I held at the time and still hold to this day quite the opposite opinion — those remastered records are not only awful sounding, but fundamentally wrong sounding.

Original Vs. Reissue

The original Riverside pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

Some of you may have discovered that the original Bill Evans records on Riverside are mostly awful sounding — I can’t recall ever hearing one sound better than mediocre — so we are not the least bit worried that this OJC won’t beat the pants off of the original, any reissue you may have, and of course any Heavy Vinyl pressing that has ever been, or ever will be, mastered.


We Get Letters – This One Is on Rumours


This week’s letter [from quite a few years ago] comes from our good customer Roger, who was blown away by our Hot Stamper pressing of Rumours. Roger did his usual thorough shootout of our Hot Stamper against his own pressings. The results? Another knockout for our Hot Stamper pressing!


Hi Tom,

Just a quick note on the Fleetwood Mac Rumors Hot Stamper I just bought. I have a Nautilus pressing and my original pressing I bought in college when it came out. I have never liked this record as much as Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac, perhaps partly because its sonics were somewhat inferior.

So I played the Nautilus and quickly remembered what a piece of sonic detritus this thing is. How can audiophile labels like Nautilus put out something that is as thin, bright, flat, and compresssed as this thing is? It obviously reinforces your point that most audiophiles are lemmings when it comes to audiophile records. If some audiophile guru said the Japanese pressing of Girl Scout Troup #657 singing the Girl Scout Theme Song was sonic nirvana, it would show up on every internet record website for $50 each.

Next up was my original pressing with an F16 matrix on side one, and man, what a relief after following the Nautilus disaster. In fact, I resisted buying a pricey hot stamper because I always felt my pressing to be pretty darned good, which it was. So I was shocked to hear just how much better the hot stamper was.

I played Dreams on side one and it took all of about 5 seconds of hearing the massive bass and startlingly dynamic cymbal crashes on this track to find the hot stamper worth every penny I paid for it. If the drum kit on Oh Daddy doesn’t get your pants flapping, time for a new stereo. Voices were eerily present, guitars had great detail, pianos had weight just like in real life (we have a piano in our house), and best of all, the highs were arrayed in space and were delicate and detailed.

Since the Nautilus is too thin to make a good frisbee and would probably fetch big bucks on ebay I will stuff it back on my shelf forever, unless I need a good laugh, and add the HS Rumors to my favorite recordings.


Roger, thanks as always for the insightful review. The sad fact of the matter is that the Nautilus Digitally Remastered Half Speed — Yes, you heard that right — is actually better than the average reissue, and probably better in most ways than the average grainy domestic original, which is pretty much unbearably edgy and gritty, especially if it hasn’t been cleaned right.

So what does the typical audiophile do? He buys the Nautilus, finds the sound better than his crappy domestic pressing — not noticing that there’s no bass on the Half Speed because his system has no bass in the first place — and stops there. It is what it is.

You took it a step further, finding a good domestic pressing, F16, far superior to the Nautilus, and figured that the sound of that LP was pretty much what the recording had to offer. You probably went through a few to get that one I’m guessing.

Ah, but now you have a pretty good idea of just how AMAZING the recording really is. (Our Triple Plus Crazy Expensive Hot Stamper copy was even better, but it takes $750 to get a record like that from us, and who has that kind of money?) Let’s face it: there are only so many hours in the day, and there are an awful lot of titles one might want to do one’s own shootouts for. Not to mention leaving time to listen for pleasure. How on earth can anyone be expected to go through all the rigmarole (defined as “a long and complicated and confusing procedure” and boy, that word sure fits the bill when it comes to record shootouts!) necessary to find a copy of Rumours good enough to enjoy?

We summed up our shootout with this final thought or two:

You would have to go through at least 25 or more copies of this record to even hope to find one in a league with our best pressings. That’s a lot of record hunting, record cleaning and record playing! (If you know anything about this record, you know that the average domestic pressing of this album is quite average sounding; the good ones are few and far between.)

And the stampers, as we’ve come to learn, aren’t the whole story. For one thing, there are at least 75 different side ones and 75 different side twos, all cut by Ken Perry at Capitol on the same three cutters from the same tapes — but they all sound different! (Ken also cut the original English and Japanese pressings; his KP is in the dead wax for all to see. The two import KP copies that I heard were quite good, by the way. Not the best, but very good. He only cut the originals though, so practically every import copy you can find will be a reissue made from a dub, ugh.)

So this is the service we offer. If you already have a job and don’t need another one, we are happy to find you the pressing that has the sound you’ve been searching for but could never find. It’s what we do best, and it positively warms our hearts to know that fellow audiophiles like Roger are sharing in the kind of musical thrill that only comes from playing a truly killer LP.

Until next time,

More Fleetwood Mac

Looking for Allmusic 5 Star Albums? We’ve Got Hot Stamper Pressings of More Than a Hundred


Like Truth here.

The soundstage is absolutely HUGE, while the presence and transparency of this copy go way beyond most pressings. Great rock and roll energy too of course — without that you have nothing on this album.

Note how spacious, big, full-bodied and DYNAMIC side one is. That’s why it’s White Hot. I am pleased to report that the whomp factor on this side was nothing short of MASSIVE. With tons of bass this side has what it takes to make the music ROCK.

One of the most surprising things we learned in our first big shootout from 2014 was how well recorded the album is. It’s yet another triumph from one of our favorite engineers, Ken Scott.

In many ways it sounds like the first Zep album, and that’s a good thing. The sound is a perfect fit for the music. In recent interviews Jeff Beck has been saying that Jimmy Page stole his idea for a Heavy Rock Band playing electrified blues. Based on the evidence found on the two sides of this very album I would say he has a point.

More Five Star Albums



Rimsky-Korsakov / Scheherazade / Ansermet / Suisse Romande


I attended this Dec. 2013 concert; it was a thrill like no other. (Well, maybe The Planets.)

“Guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos’s attention to detail delivers the razzle dazzle and also discovers renewed radiance in ‘Scheherazade.'”


We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had shown potential.

The only recordings that held up all the way through — the fourth movement being THE Ball Breaker of all time, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Ansermet. This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing those ten or so other pressings.

Here it is a year later and we’re capitalizing on what we learned from the first big go around, which is simply this: the Ansermet recording on Decca/London can not only hold its own with the Reiner on RCA, but beat it in virtually any area. The presentation and the sound itself are both more relaxed and natural, even when compared to the best RCA pressings.

The emotional content of the first three movements (all of side one) under Ansermet’s direction are clearly superior. The roller coaster excitement Reiner and the CSO bring to the fourth movement cannot be faulted, or equaled. In every other way Ansermet’s performance is the one for me.

Both Sides

Superb! Big brass, so full-bodied and dynamic, yet clear and not thick or overly tubey. Lots of space as is usually the case with Ansermet’s recordings from this era.

Both sides here are BIG, with the space and depth of the wonderful Victoria Hall that the L’Orchestre De La Suisse Romande perform in. As a rule, the classic ’50s and ’60s recordings of Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are as big and rich as any you’ve heard. On the finest pressings (known around these parts as Hot Stampers) they seem to be the ideal blend of clarity and richness, with depth and spaciousness that will put to shame 98% of the classical recordings ever made.

The solo violin is present and so real you will have a hard time believing it.

This copy is huge in every dimension, just as all the best ones always are, with maximum amounts of height, width, and depth. The transparency is also superb — you really hear into this one in the way that only the best Golden Age recordings allow.

Side Two Coupling Work

Borodin: Prince Igor – Polovtsian Dances

The Borodin is amazing on this pressing’s side two!

Huge scope — depth and width like you will not believe, perfect for this music. The voices in the chorus are clearly separated out and so big and rich! Open and sweet in the best Golden Age tradition, as well as smooth and natural, like live music should be.

Awful Shaded Dogs

The somewhat shocking news is just how awful most Shaded Dog copies of LSC 2446 are. Even the ones with the “right” stampers are often far from what they should be. It is my heretical opinion that only one or two out of ten copies of the RCA vinyl will beat the Living Stereo CD, and no reissue of any kind can touch it. The CD sounds right. Most vinyl pressings do not.

As is so often the case, hearing the phenomenally good pressings is what truly makes all the time and effort we put into the shootout worthwhile.

Ansermet’s performance with the Suisse Romande here may not have the uncanny precision of Reiner’s with the CSO, but he does manage to bring out most of the more lyrical elements that seem to hold less interest for Reiner.

The key element is the brass — it must have tremendous weight and power, otherwise the proceedings become thin and lose their energy. Consequently, the copies without good weight to the brass and richness in the lower strings fared poorly in our shootout.

Lessons Learned, 2015

There are certain stampers that seem to have a consistently brighter-than-it-should-be top end. They are tolerable most of the time, but the real magic can only be found on the copies that have a correct or even slightly duller top. Live classical music is never “bright” the way recordings of it so often are.

It’s rarely “rich” and “romantic” the way many vintage recordings are — even those we rave about — but that’s another story for another day.

See more of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov in stock


Julie Is Her Name – A Boxstar Bomb


A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex / Boxstar.

One question: Where’s the Tubey Magic?

We would never have pointed you in the direction of this awful Boxstar 45 of Julie Is Her Name, cut by Bernie Grundman, supposedly on tube equipment. I regret to say that we actually sold some copies, but in my defense I can honestly and truthfully claim that we never wrote a single nice thing about the sound of the record. That has to count for something, right?

We found the Tubey Magic on his pressing to be non-existent, as non-existent as it is on practically every Classic Record release he cut. If you have his version you are in for quite a treat when you finally get this one home and on your table. There is a world of difference between the sound of the two versions and we would be very surprised if it takes you more than ten seconds to hear it.

See all of our Julie London albums in stock

What to Listen For (WTLF)

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel’s guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

To take nothing away from her performance, which got better with every copy we played. Julie’s rendition of Cry Me a River may be definitive.

If only Ella Fitzgerald on Clap Hands got this kind of sound! As good as the best copies of that album are, this record takes the concept of intimate female vocals to an entirely new level.

Forgotten Sound

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Liberty pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

THIS is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us with a good turntable could care less.

Records For Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records

Records made for audiophiles are rarely any good, so rarely that we are shocked when an audiophile record is even halfway decent. After playing so many badly remastered pressings for so many years it’s practically a truism here at Better Records.

A mass-produced vintage record like this is the perfect example of why we pay no attention whatsoever to the bona fides of the disc, but instead make our judgments strictly on the merits of the pressing at hand.

It has opened up to us a world of sound that the typical audiophile — he who believes the audiophile pressing hype — will never have a chance to experience.

Further Reading

Other recordings that we have found to be especially Tubey Magical can be found here.



A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers: The More Mistakes the Better, Part Three


“The essence of success is that it is never necessary to think of a new idea oneself. It is far better to wait until somebody else does it, and then to copy him in every detail, except his mistakes.” ~Aubrey Menen

Indeed, if only that were practical. Our approach to Hot Stampers and How to Find Them is certainly a revolutionary new idea, and undoubtedly the only way of discovering records with superior sound quality.

But even if we were to publish all of our secrets, the stamper numbers and labels and countries of origin of all the best pressings we’ve ever played, every last one, that would still not be the answer, for the simple reason that no two records sound the same.

As long as that’s true, either we have to play a pile of records to find the best sounding ones, or you do. There is no other way to do it.

But at the very least, with commentaries such as this one, we hope we can be helpful in pointing the analog record lover in the right direction. Follow us. What we do can work for anyone — anyone who’s willing to make mistakes that is.

Further Reading

We have a number of entries in our original equals better series, in which we debunk the conventional wisdom regarding which are the best sounding pressings for specific artists and titles.

Here are some commentaries on a subject near and dear to all of us, namely Record Collecting.

The entries linked here may help you gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding Hot Stampers.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.


The Typical Domestic Pressing of On The Border Sucks, and Here’s Why


This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity on some songs.

The domestic copies of On The Border have many tracks in reversed absolute phase, including and especially Midnight Flyer, a lifelong favorite of mine. The front and center banjo will positively tear your head off; it’s bright, sour, shrill, aggressive and full of distortion. Don’t look at me — that’s what reverse phase sounds like!

More of The Eagles

I’ve known for some time that domestic pressings of On The Border have their phase reversed — just hadn’t gotten around to discussing the issue because I wasn’t ready to list the record and describe the phenomenon. A while back [January 2005, time flies] I happened to play a copy of One Of These Nights and was appalled by the dismal quality of the sound. Last night I put two and two together. I pulled out both Eagles records and listened to them with the phase reversed. Voila! (On The Border is a favorite record of mine, dismissed by everyone else, but loved by yours truly.)I’m of the opinion that a very small percentage of records have their absolute phase reversed. Once you’ve learned to recognize the kind of distortion reversed absolute phase causes, you will hear recordings that may make you suspicious, and the only way to know for sure is to switch the positive and negative, wherever you choose to do so. Some of that story is also told in the link entitled Thoughts On Absolute Polarity.

With the help of our EAR 324 Phono Stage the phase is reversible with the mere touch of a button, a wonderful convenience that we have grown to love, along with the amazingly transparent sound of course. (Hard to imagine living without either at this point.)

The Last Of The Glyn Johns Eagles Records

For their debut the Eagles recorded what we consider to be one of the Five Best Sounding Rock Records in the history of the art form. Of course the Eagles didn’t record anything, Glyn Johns did, and he deserves all the credit for turning that first album into a Demo Disc of the highest order. Halfway through this album, their third, they fired him. (The British ran Winston Churchill out of office after the war, so go figure.) Johns is credited with only two tracks on the album, and of course those two are the real Demo Disc tracks here.

But as I way playing various copies of these original British SYL pressings (the SYL of Desperado is the one on the TAS List, don’t you know), I could easily recognize the fully-extended, harmonically-rich, super-low distortion, Tubey Magical, Unbelievably Sweet Glyn Johns Sound everywhere in the soundfield I looked. Every track has some of it.

Maybe not the full measure you hear on You Never Cry Like a Lover, the standout track from side one, but enough to make you realize that even half of a Glyn Johns recording is head and shoulders better than what was to follow. One of These Nights, recorded by Bill Szymczyk, his replacement, is a step down in quality — if that step is off the edge of cliff. Say what you want about Hotel California — an FM radio staple that wore out its welcome decades ago, but not a bad recording by any means — it can’t begin to compete sonically with the likes of the first three Eagles albums that Johns did.

(And now that you’re familiar with the two main guys who recorded this band, check the dead wax of your Eagles Greatest Hits pressings for a laugh)

This is the band’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson memorably noted, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, said record:

1) Must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio hobbyist been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music;”
2) My sixty-something-year-old self must currently respect the album, and;
3) I must think I will want to listen to the music on the album fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles are constantly being added, time permitting.

Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of Desert Island Discs you can actually buy.

This Is the Kind of Thing You Notice When You Play Scores of Copies of the Same Album


If you have a copy or two laying around, there is a very good chance that side two will be noticeably thinner and brighter than side one. That has been our experience anyway, and we’ve been playing batches of this album for well over a decade. To find a copy with a rich side two is rare indeed.

More Hall and Oates

Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars and mandolins that feature so prominently in the mixes.

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further.

As Good As It Gets

Until I picked up one of these nice originals I had no idea how amazing the record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track pop recording it’s about as good as it gets. It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth most of the time — in short, it’s got all the stuff audiophiles like you and me LOVE.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

On the better copies practically every track on this side will have killer sound.

When the Morning Comes
Had I Known You Better Then
Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
She’s Gone
I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)

Side Two

Abandoned Luncheonette

In our experience only the best copies (and the best stereos) can make sense of this track.

Lady Rain

Wall to wall, floor to ceiling multi-track ANALOG MAGIC.

Laughing Boy
Everytime I Look at You

The FUNKIEST Hall and Oates track ever. Bernard Purdie on the drums! And who’s that funky rhythm guitarist with the Motown Sound? None other than John Oates hisself. If you hear echoes of Motown throughout this record, you’re hearing what we’re hearing. Who doesn’t love that sound? (If we could only find real Motown records that sound like this one…)

Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

We have a large number of entries in our Listening in Depth series.

We have a section for Audio Advice of all kinds.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.